Fontanellato Lunch 2011

The Trust formally launched its £1m Appeal on behalf of its student bursaries at the highly enjoyable annual Fontanellato lunch on 9 November 2011.

Keith Killby, MSMT founder, and Mrs Jo Skinner, widow of Stan Skinner, Sulmona PoW, at the 2011 lunch

Keith Killby, MSMT founder, and Mrs Jo Skinner, widow of Stan Skinner, Sulmona PoW, at the 2011 lunch

Keith Killby, MSMT founder, and Mrs Jo Skinner, widow of Stan Skinner, Sulmona PoW, at the 2011 lunch

Eighty-four supporters met at the Royal Overseas League, London, to hear Sir Nicholas Young, Trust chairman, announce that one family, with great generosity, had got the Appeal rolling with a £30,000 donation and a pledge to cover the costs of the Trust’s professional fundraiser. He warned, however, that there was a long road ahead if the Trust were to reach its £1m target and achieve its ambition of securing long-term financing of the bursaries it awards to young Italians.

Thirty-four of the guests present were participating in the Fontanellato lunch for the first time and five were former prisoners of war in Italy. These were Keith Killby, the Trust’s founder; Michael Lacey; Rivers Scott; Frank Unwin; and Mick Wagner.

The guest speaker was writer and journalist Rory Knight Bruce, who contributes to the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator and the Field among other publications, and whose father, Nigel, was the “camp barman” when a prisoner at the Fontanellato camp. By all accounts, Nigel was the life and soul of any party. “Already today, two ladies here have told me they were my father’s girlfriends,” said Rory, in an amusing speech that also stressed the debt that Trust families owe to the bravery of the Italian contadini who sheltered their fathers and grandfathers at great risk to their own lives.

“Like all of you here today I am the grateful child or grandchild of those who returned from PoW camps in Italy,” he said.

Rory, who lives in Devon and has inherited his father’s love of country sports, recalls being told that when his father got safely home from Italy he was allowed as a treat to eat his Christmas turkey in bed. On that occasion, clearly, he did not have to act as barman.

Flowers were presented to the trio of ladies who put so much work into organising the event – Letitia Blake, Christine English and Elly Evans.

The lunch had started with Grace said by the Rev Bill Bowder, son of a Fontanellato prisoner. It concluded with a vote of thanks to the Italian people delivered by Sir Tom Richardson, a trustee and former British ambassador to Rome – and a rousing shout of “Viva l’Italia!”.